190: Forget the 80/20 Rule: How to Design Your Own Ratio for Success | Tanya Dalton Skip to the content
September 15, 2020   |   Episode #:

190: Forget the 80/20 Rule: How to Design Your Own Ratio for Success

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In This Episode:

As we continue our conversation on strategies for success, I wanted to touch on a subject that I consider a foundational rule: Pareto’s Principle. Often called the “80/20 rule,” it’s something that applies in a thousand different ways in our personal life, work-life, and everything in between. In this episode, I am taking a deep dive into this centuries-old concept. First, I explore some misconceptions that people have about Pareto’s Principle (so you can avoid making the same mistakes!). After that, we dig into how you can look at it in a brand new way by learning how to use it as a model to design your own ratio for success based on what productivity looks and feels like to you.

Show Transcript:

The Big Idea

Small focused pockets of effort produce the majority of your results.

Questions I Answer

  • What is the Pareto Principle?
  • How can I figure out where to focus?
  • What do if my to-do list is too long?
  • How can I increase my productivity?

Actions to Take

  • action

Key Topics in the Show

  • Misconceptions that people have around Pareto’s Principle

  • Why you still need to take care of what’s called the trivial many

  • Using Pareto’s Principle in an entirely new way

Resources and Links

Show Transcript

This is The Intentional Advantage podcast with your host, Tanya Dalton, an
entrepreneur, best-selling author, nationally recognized productivity expert and
keynote speaker. This season is all about strategies for success, helping you confidently
step into leadership, purposefully, intentionally, and mindfully. Are you ready? Here’s
your host, Tanya Dalton.
Hello, everyone. Welcome to The Intentional Advantage podcast. I’m your host,
Tanya Dalton, and this is Episode 190.
Today, we’re going to continue our season on Strategies for Success. So I want to
start with a question: Do you consider yourself a thinker or a doer? Yeah. I really want
you to answer that question. Are you a thinker or are you a doer? I want you to think
about that because we’re going to talk about that question and why it’s important
here in just a little bit, but for now, I want you to keep it in your mind as we dig into
our discussion today.
And what we’re going to be talking about is another strategy for looking at your life
and the success you want to achieve in a whole new way. Are you ready for this?
Okay. Have you answered that question, are you a thinker or doer? Because now I
want to start exploring something that we’ve talked about a time or two in the past.
And it’s something that I consider a foundational rule that applies in a thousand
different ways in a thousand different aspects of our lives: personal life, work-life,
every aspect. You’ve heard me talk about it before because I truly think that when
we apply it correctly, we can achieve life-changing results. And that’s something is
the Pareto’s Principle.
Pareto’s Principle, if you recall, is this fabulous foundational rule that the Italian
economist, Willfred Pareto, discovered way, way, way, way back in the late 1700s.
Some say it could be the early 1800s, but that gives you an idea. It’s a pretty old
foundational rule. And what he did was he observed that 80% of Italy’s wealth was a
result of 20% of the population.
So in other words, the wealth was not evenly distributed, but it wasn’t just that; it
was the fact that it was concentrated in a highly predictable way. And this became
Pareto’s Principle. And this model of the Pareto’s Principle was revived in the 1950s
by Joseph Moses Sharan, who’s considered by many to be the father of the quality
movement. And what he discovered was he started applying this principle into all
different areas of business and all different areas of life.

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And it continually repeated again and again, that this principle, this rule actually
worked. And what it does is it recognizes that most things in life are not evenly
distributed. And this is how the Pareto Principle was really born, which some refer to
as the 80/20 rule. And that’s maybe how you’ve heard it before.
We’re going to talk about calling it the 80/20 Rule here in just a minute, but what it
basically proves is that small focused pockets of effort produce the majority of your
results. So when it comes to the effort–the input or the activity, the tasks, whatever it
is: the small number that makes the big results is referred to as the vital few.
So the few tasks that are truly important, that are truly our priorities, that get us
those big results.
And the other side of the coin is the other tasks, which are the ‘trivial many.’ Really
it’s the vital few that get us the big results. I talk about Pareto’s Principle all the time,
because truly what it does is it helps us get a clearer picture of the importance of
owning and prioritizing our time and doing it really effectively. Because when we
prioritize our time, when we choose to do that, we can carve out the space that we
need to really focus in on the vital few.
And that makes our results so much bigger. It makes that impact we’re all looking to
make so much greater, but guess what? As often, when we highlight strategies and
certain rules aimed at boosting our productivity and our effectiveness, it turns out
we aren’t always so good in how we view those strategies or rules to begin with.
I mean, for one thing, it turns out there are quite a few misconceptions floating
around on the internet these days about Pareto’s Principle. And by quite a few, I
mean, a lot. I kind of dove into this; I got into a rabbit hole looking into all these
different misconceptions because I was curious why people struggle with really
applying Pareto’s Principle.
And so I found a lot of these misconceptions, shocker. I know, can you believe some
things that we read and come across online are not true? Wow, that’s a big light
bulb moment, isn’t it? Let’s be honest: that should not be a light bulb moment for
any of us. But I thought it was really interesting to see how people misconstrue or
misunderstand Pareto’s Principle.
So I wanted to take just a few minutes to dig into those misconceptions so that we
can put them to bed once and for all. And then after that, I want us to look at using
Pareto’s Principle in a new way. We’re going to flip it on its head and actually apply it
to you because here’s one thing we should all know by now. If you’ve listened to this
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podcast for any length of time, you know, productivity is not one size fits all. I mean,
let’s be honest. Your life is not one size fits all.
Whatever we do, whatever strategies we talk about, or rules or principles we discuss,
let’s get creative with them. Let’s hop off that bandwagon of whatever it is that we
think we’re supposed to do, and let’s make the strategies that we read about or that
we listened to or that we talk about, and let’s make them truly work for you. I think
that sounds pretty good, don’t you?
All right. Let’s get into those misconceptions because here’s the thing . . . there are a
lot of so-called experts out there who use Pareto’s Principle as this buzzword, and
they don’t really apply it appropriately.
So there’s more than just a few common misconceptions that are out there. So let’s
dive into those. And here’s the first one. People love to refer to Pareto’s Principle as
the 80/20 Rule. And because they call it the 80/20 Rule, they often stick hard and fast
to the misconception that the name implies 80 and 20. I mean, people love that 80
plus 20 equals a hundred in a mathematical equation.
So they’re like, ‘Oh, it has to be 80. And it has to be 20.’ But it doesn’t really mean that
the 20% and the 80% that Wilfred Pareto found really speaks to this synonymous
relationship. They’re not the same thing. We’re talking about 20% of input and 80%
of output. One is input. One is output. They’re not the same thing, but here’s what
I’m seeing: I see that people who don’t truly understand Pareto’s Principle, they try to
explain it as a strategy and they put this 80 and 20 together in a piechart, for
example, and they’re not the same thing.
We can’t use like a piechart and split it up into the 80/20. And here’s the real truth of
the matter: Pareto’s Principle is not about those hard and fast numbers; both 80 and
20 are just examples of that uneven balance. And the fact that they happen to add
up to 100 is just simply a coincidence.
Because when it comes to your input and it comes to your output, you might find
that your percentages are a little bit different. So we think it’s going to be 20% and
80%, but really your role might be more of an 80/10 where 80% of your results come
from 10% of your activities.
Or it means it could even be a 90/15 situation, 15% of your activities, and the things
that you’re doing results in 90% of the output (90% of the results that you achieve).
Here’s what I want for you: Don’t get caught up in the numbers 80 and 20. This is
why I always refer to it as Pareto’s Principle and not the 80/20 rule, because that’s
not really the rule.

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It’s the understanding that it’s the small focused pockets of effort producing the
majority of your results. That’s at the heart of Pareto’s Principle. So I want you to keep
that in mind. Let’s stop calling it the 80/20 Rule because the 80 and the 20 apply
sometimes, but not all the time. And let’s really figure out the numbers that work for
Okay? And this leads me to the next big misconception that I see oftentimes about
Pareto’s Principle: the other percentage of activities that don’t really give us the big
output. What I’m talking about is the other side of the vital few, the other tasks that
are remaining; these are referred to as the trivial many. So we have, when it comes to
our activities, when it comes to our tasks, when it comes to the input . . . we have the
vital few and the trivial many. Whatever you’re doing applies to one of those buckets,
the vital few, which is a small bucket and the trivial mini, which is a bigger bucket,
So what happens is we really focus-in, and we laser-in on that small bucket of the
vital few and we forget about the trivial mini? That’s a big mistake here. We can’t just
pretend that those tasks, those activities, those efforts don’t really exist. We can think
of them as all of the smaller tasks that you could batch together or commonly place
in the accommodate section of your priority list.
So these might be things like checking in, responding to email, ordering office
supplies, even paying bills might fall under this category of the trivial many. These
are things that we don’t necessarily love to do, and we might even view them as
time sucks or time-wasters in the large scope of things. (Not that paying bills is a
time-waster, but it’s something that we don’t really love to do. And it’s something
like, ‘I just got to pay the bills,’ right? It’s not really getting you the output.)
But here’s the thing–and this is why I said paying the bills here in this category:
These are things we still have to do. We cannot pretend like they don’t exist because
here’s what happens. Pareto’s Principle is applied ineffectively and people assume
we need to focus exclusively on the vital few tasks because those are the ones that
give us the output. And maybe if we just jam-packed the vital few full, like we’re
stuck in our suitcase for our vacation . . .
If we do that, maybe we’ll get even bigger output and we can just choose to ignore
the trivial many. And that’s not correct either. We still gotta take care of those things.
As I said, many of those tasks that we label as insignificant, still have to be done
whether we like it or not.
We can devote as much time as we want on our top priorities. But if we never come
up for air once in a while, we’re going to find ourselves having to backtrack on all
those smaller tasks that we neglected. These things have to keep running. We can’t
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pretend like they don’t exist. If we do that, we’re going to get in this cycle of
continuously playing catch up, which is the opposite of what we want.
In fact, let me give you a real-life example of what this looks like if you choose to
simply focus on the vital few and ignore the trivial many. Years and years ago, I
worked alongside a really well-known photographer who was doing amazing things:
winning every award out there on giant stages, sharing the process they went
through for their images. They had a full docket of clients who were lined up ready to
have their images taken from the outside. It was the perfect trajectory of like a huge,
huge success, right? Because I mean, their clients were happy. They’re winning
awards. Everything seems amazing.
And they were focusing on the vital few. What were the things that could get them
the outcomes that they wanted, the awards, the stage presence, the customers and
clients who are scrambling to have their pictures taken . . . And they did that and
chose to not focus at all on the trivial many. And that included things like paying
their bills, paying their taxes.
So here we have this photographer who is on this trajectory for giant success, who
then a couple of years later has to pack it all up and close up shop, file bankruptcy,
and close up their business, which was amazingly successful. And it should’ve
continued for decades to be successful because of that trajectory they were on. But
because they chose to ignore the trivial many and the things that they considered a
time-waster, things fell apart.
Some of those tasks–not all of them in our trivial many–some of them are really
important for keeping the business running. So I want you to make sure that you’re
still keeping an eye on those. And we do want to assess whether we really need to do
them or not, but we can’t fully just pretend like they’re not there.
We can create systems. We can create automations. We can make it so those things
are still happening without us having to give a huge amount of focus on those tasks.
So let’s not choose to ignore the trivial many. Let’s still address it because we still
need to talk about it; we still need to create those systems. But let’s do focus the
majority of our time on the vital few.
So I want to dive into more about that here in just a minute because I want to take
this idea of the Pareto principle, flip it on its head a little bit, and let’s make it work for
you based off of what you consider is a successful use of your time. All right. Does
that sound good?
Let’s do that in just a minute. But before we do, let’s take a quick mid-episode break.
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Did you know that only 2% of women-owned businesses ever achieve the
seven-figure mark? Only 2% ever break through and make that million-dollar (and
beyond) mark. And here’s the thing: I love that I’m one of the few, but I want some
sisters alongside me. I want more of you to grow your businesses to success. And
here’s the good news: it is absolutely possible. But the thing we’ve got to change is
your mindset and the way that you’re applying things like Pareto’s Principle, like
what we’re talking about here today.
So I’m offering a free Masterclass. It’s a live event called, Achieve the Million-dollar
Mindset . . . and we’re going to take some of the ideas that we’re talking about here
on the show, and we’re going to dive deeper into it. We’re also going to talk about
some things we haven’t talked about on the show, and we’re going to talk about
how you achieve that million-dollar mindset for you and for your business because
here’s the thing: there’s no reason why you have to sacrifice your personal life, your
family life in order to grow a highly successful, very profitable business.
And I know many of you listening to my show are impact makers. You’re wanting to
make a difference in your world. And here’s the thing: You absolutely can do that,
and you can make massive amounts of money while you’re doing it. I’m all about the
freedoms: the time freedom, the lifestyle freedom, and the financial freedom. And I
think that’s what you want as well. So head over to Tanyadalton.com/masterclass to
sign up. It’s a free class and we’re going to do it live. So I’m going to be answering
your questions. We’re going to be diving into a lot of the principles and the ways that
I have grown my own businesses, seven figures all while staying really focused on my
personal life at the same time. All right? That’s tanyadalton.com/masterclass.
Okay, let’s get back into this idea of making Pareto’s Principle work for us. All right,
are you ready? Take a deep breath. Maybe take a sip of water, whatever it is you
need, but we’re going to dive in deep. So let’s get ready for this. I want you to go
back and I want you to think about that question that I asked you at the top of this
episode, Are you a thinker or are you a doer?
And the reason why I ask this is because I want to challenge you to seriously start
considering how much thinking and doing you give yourself time and space to
accomplish in a single day. Now, I know some of you are going to naturally respond
to that question without a doubt that given a choice, you feel the need to act more
than you feel the need to think.
You’re quick on your decision making and you love to keep moving, moving, moving,
and keeping it going. And there are others who are going to say, ‘Oh gosh, I’m totally
the opposite. I’d much rather spend more time thinking than actually doing.’ Neither
one is right. Neither one is better, but really it’s a good question to dig into. How is it
that you work now?

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Warren Buffet is a great example of someone who does more thinking than actual
doing. He spends an extraordinary amount of his time thinking because as a big
investor, he’s faced with having very few decisions. I mean, they’re big decisions, but
there are fewer of them. So the amount of action he has to take is fairly minimal.
What really matters to Warren Buffet is the quality of his decision making.
And by spending much of his time thinking and learning about the opportunities
that he’s presented with, he’s able to act when it matters and he’s able to act
effectively. Now, most of us have a more even amount than old Warren does, that’s
for sure, but this is where Pareto Principle comes in.
And this is what I love about applying this foundational principle: what if we chose to
look at Pareto’s Principle as a strategy that we can use to become effective thinkers
and doers, both? Because here’s the thing: we want both. We want to be a good
thinker, but we also want to be an action taker. So let’s take a step back to that 20%
that Pareto first came up with.
And I know we’re not getting caught up in the numbers, the 80 and the 20, but let’s
just start there. Okay. So let’s start with that 20% that Pareto came up with, and we’re
going to equate that with being the most significant: the vital few things that we
can do that really drive our business and our career success forward those small
pockets of focus, right?
In order to grow into the people that we want to be, we’ve really got to dig in and
give ourselves permission to be tenacious in how we go after our goals and our big
dreams. And a huge part of that process is learning how to cultivate our vital few
while putting systems in place that help us handle everything else–the trivial
We don’t want to let those go. We talked about that. We want to make sure those
are still running, oftentimes on autopilot. So regardless of how you answered my
question earlier, what I want you to dig into is how much of the thinking that you do
is truly effective. How much of the decision making that you do truly does make a
difference and makes an impact in your business? If you are spending your time
thinking about the wrong things or bouncing from place to place to place, or if
you’re spending most of your time shifting, moving from one task to the next,
making your decisions, maybe on the fly, is that really effective? Are you really being
as effective as you could be?
The key that we seem to miss when we consider Pareto’s Principle is that the rule is
meaningless if we don’t find ways to apply it effectively. Whether we look at
someone like our friend, Warren buffet who thinks most of the time but acts in
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profound big moves, or if we think about people who spend most of their time
executing, move after move, instead of thinking . . . we’re not giving ourselves an
opportunity to consider the fact we are all different.
Yes, Warren Buffet is amazingly successful, but it doesn’t mean that what Warren
does really is going to work for you. If you recall a couple of episodes back, we talked
about this idea that success is not trying to fit yourself neatly into a box that was
made for someone else. You are not limited by someone else’s definition of success.
The only definition that matters is the one that you create for yourself based on the
life that you lead and the life you want.
That’s the even bigger thing: What is it you truly want for your business? What is it
you truly want for your career or your personal life? And here’s what I want you to
recognize: the same can be said of Pareto’s Principle. I want you to be comfortable
with thinking and doing. I want you to find your way of harmonizing the two. If
you’re someone who thrives in action mode, fabulous, just make sure you’re not
limiting yourself by never giving yourself the crucial time you need to really think the
goals you set for yourself.
The amount of control that you can truly gain over your own time, even coming up
with your own input and outputs percentages, all of these hinge on your ability to
slow down, take a step back, and truly think things through and really assess what
works for you.
What works for your industry, what works for your business, what works for your
personal life? All of those are really key factors. We don’t want to get so caught up in
that 80/20 ratio that we’re losing sight of what it is we really want. So here’s what I
want you to do. I want you to sit down and I want you to think about what your ratio
for success really looks like.
Forget about input, forget about output, consider your ratio for success. One that
speaks to how effective you can be. For example, are you a 20/80 person? Do you
spend 20% of your time thinking and 80% seeing your decisions through? Are you a
10/90? Are you a 15/85, or something different? What is your thinking to action mode;
what is your ratio?
And it’s going to be different for you than it is for other people because what you
need to consider here are your own biggest priorities and how effective you are in
your efforts to see them through, to cultivate them, and actually take action on
them. If you are effective in your thinking, you’re going to be effective at your
execution and vice versa. And that is really where true productivity happens.

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Okay? So I want you to think about that. Let’s just not blindly apply principles
because we think that’s what we’re supposed to do. Let’s take a step back and see
how they really work for us. So before we close out for today, I love to always end the
episodes with our momentum builders. I want you to get started designing your
own ratio for success.
Are you ready? Okay. Momentum builder number one: assess your priorities. Let’s
dig into the original Pareto’s Principle and let’s figure out what are your vital few.
What are those really for you? What are the tasks that drive you forward that gets
you the results that allow you to make the biggest impact with your time? I want
you to take a good look at your time and how you’re spending it.
What are the vital few tasks that actually do drive you and your career forward? Start
to make a list of those, and then you’ll be able to figure out the trivial many just by
starting off with that vital few. So start with a smaller bucket because that’s easier.
And that allows us to really differentiate between our tasks.
Okay. Momentum builder number two: I want you to ask yourself again, that
question, are you a thinker or a doer? And I want you to design your own ratio based
on your results, keeping in mind that it might fluctuate a little bit as the seasons of
your life fluctuate. Start with that 80/20 ratio as your starting block, but don’t get
stuck in those numbers, right?
We talked about that several times on the show. Let’s not get stuck in the 80/20.
Shift things around and find a ratio that works for you, because if you’re more of a
thinker, you’re going to have a bigger ratio of thinking than you are action. But we
need to make sure that we’ve got some harmony in there between our thinking and
doing. It’s not going to do us any good if we just sit around and think about what we
want and never act. And it does us no good to act, act, act without really thinking
those things through.
All right? And then we have momentum builder number three: If you are wanting to
gain more success with less work, which is Pareto’s Principle at its very best, you’re
going to want to sign up for my free masterclass, Achieving the Million-dollar
Pareto’s principle is just one of the topics we’re going to be diving into during the
event. And I’ll be mapping it out in a way that helps you apply it even more. You’re
not going to want to miss this masterclass. If you’re interested in growing and
scaling your business with ease, like I do, I’ve achieved the elusive seven-figure mark,
and I do it without sacrificing my personal life. And I don’t think you should either.

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I don’t think you should think that it’s one or the other. Let’s find that harmony. And
you can get a good start on finding that by going to tanyadalton.com/Masterclass.
Again, the name of the class is Achieving the Million-dollar Mindset. I would
absolutely love to see you there live because I will be answering questions. We’ll be
chatting in the chatbox and sharing a lot of great strategies that I know you’ll be able
to apply right away.
Again, that link is tanyadalton.com/Masterclass. All right? There, you got it: three very
simple things you can do to get started on getting closer to that definition of success
that you mapped out with me two weeks ago, back in Episode 188.
And as you continue diving into what success looks like for you, I would love to hear
about the discoveries you’re making as we go through the season and we explore
more of these strategies for success. So you can head to tanyadalton.com/Group.
Join my free community on Facebook, share your success ratio with me and the
others there. It’s a great place to find a lot of support and a lot of encouragement.
And in the meantime, I want to encourage you to keep pulling that curtain back just
a little bit each week on leadership and finding success and happiness on your own
terms, because here’s what I can tell you: our journey, it’s not over. It’s not even close
to being over.
And in fact, next week I’ve got an exciting guest lined up. Greg McKeown is going to
be on the show and he’s going to be talking about his experience with leadership
and success and how you get rid of a lot of that trivial many.
So make sure you plan to tune in next week. Here’s what I want you to walk away
from today’s episode remembering: you don’t have to do everything to achieve
success. You really don’t. You can find incredible amounts of success and
achievement. When you learn to apply these foundational learnings, we don’t just
want to blindly implement them. We want to apply them mindfully. We want to
apply them successfully so they truly do work for you and the life you want to lead.
(That’s the Intentional Advantage.)